Rob Scuderi is a piece of Long Island history.
A gritty defenseman who played on the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Scuderi talkis the first (and only) Long Island native to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
Growing up, Scuderi started playing hockey at the age of six when his father got into the game at age 35. He went on to play for the Long Island Gulls and New York Applecore midget and junior teams before attending in Huntington, where he played 4 years of hockey and 3 years of lacrosse.
“Playing for both Applecore and St. Anthony’s was a lot of hockey,” Scuderi remembers, speaking after a practice last week before a game against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. “I think I’d play something like 70 or 75 junior hockey games and roughly 20 high school hockey games at the time. It never felt like work though.”
For college, Scuderi moved on to the Hockey East and played four years at Boston College. After posted 24 assists in 42 games for the Eagles as a freshman, the Pittsburgh Penguins took him in the fifth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
“When you get drafted you know that a new crop of guys, a new draft class is picked every year,” Scuderi said. “If you don’t go right to the NHL, you have to focus on continuing to improve.”
Scuderi stayed at B.C. for another three years, improving and helping the Eagles to their second-ever national championship in 2001. That same season, Scuderi was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team. In 168 games, Scuderi posted 70 points on seven goals and 63 assists, and registered 96 penalty minutes.
After graduating Scuderi was assigned to the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Penguins of the American Hockey League. In 305 games the Penguins’ top development teal, he logged 88 points on eight goals and 80 assists, posting 206 penalty minutes. In 41 playoff games, Scuderi put up 20 penalty minutes, scored two goals and logged five assists for a total of seven points.
“I didn’t get a call-up for two and a half years and sometimes it can be tough,” Scuderi said. “You have to try not to get discouraged and keep trying to get better.
Scuderi finally cracked the Penguins lineup in the 2003-2004 season. Although he joined the club as it was struggling financially and was rumored to be considering relocation, a group of young players including Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin where about to revive one of the league’s favorite franchises. He made his debut in February 2004 against the Florida Panthers and scored his first NHL goal against the New York Rangers the next month.
“I actually got my first NHL goal at Madison Square Garden,” Scuderi said. “It was cool because I grew up hating the Rangers and it was pretty cool to get my first goal against them.”
Because of the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Scuderi played again for the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. The next season, Scuderi played in 57 NHL games though the Penguins failed to make the playoffs. In 2007, the Penguins lost their opening-round playoff series, but played for the Stanley Cup in 2008, losing to the Detroit Red Wings.
“The Red Wings took away our dream in 2008 and we got to take it back the next year,” Scuderi said. “It was a heated rivalry and the team’s didn’t like each other after two months of playoff hockey. I definitely took it as a bit of justice in the end.”
In the next year’s Stanley Cup Finals, Scuderi – now best known for delivering perfect checks and being defensively effective without accumulating penalty minutes – played the role of hero.
The Penguins were holding a 2-1 lead over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 when Scuderi made one of the most extraordinary individual efforts in the recent history of the Stanley Cup Finals. Scuderi stopped a shot at a wide open net by Johan Franzén with his stick, then stopped Franzén again with his skate.
“I realized I was going to have to do things like that a while ago. I just remember getting the first one with my stick and going down and thinking “Don’t put your hand on the puck,” Scuderi said. “The rest worked out.”
Scuderi signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Kings to a four-year contract on July 2, 2009. He played his first game for the Kings on October 3, 2009 and tallied his first point, an assist, five days later.
This season, Scuderi is earning $3.4 million dollars and has posted 14 points in 59 games so far. He’s also posted his career high number of goals with two.
“I was fortunate in free agency to have a lot of options and financially, the money was just about the same,’ Scuderi said. “I was lucky that I was able to make a hockey decision. We’ve got a good core and it’s a great place to continue my career and hopefully win another Stanley Cup.”
Although he is signed to Los Angeles through the 2012-13 season and makes his off season home in Boston, Scuderi isn’t ruling out a return to Long Island.
“It’s fun to play here, I can remember coming to game and watching games. Denis Potvin was always my favorite player, Pat Lafontaine was young, those were al the guys I watched as a kid,” Scuderi said. “I think it would be pretty cool to play for the team you grew up rooting for and I think they’ve got things going in the right direction.”